December 15, 2015

Houston Derek PhD  0412 (2)COLUMBUS, Ohio – The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders recently awarded a five-year, $2.9 million grant to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Department of Otolaryngology for researching infant-directed speech (IDS) and language development in infants with hearing loss.

“Approximately three out of 1,000 infants are born with hearing loss and a significant number fall behind in language and literacy compared to peers who have normal hearing,” said Derek Houston, an associate professor of otolaryngology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

IDS, also described as “baby talk” is defined as any speech with characteristics one may associate with talking to an infant. Research shows infants, beginning at a very early age, prefer IDS to adult-directed speech. It can be extremely challenging for infants who suffer from hearing loss to learn a spoken language.

“Some children don’t acquire age-appropriate language, even if they receive cochlear implants or hearing aids at a young age, which is a big obstacle,” said Houston, also principal investigator of the research.

Houston, along with colleagues Dr. Oliver Adunka, an otolaryngologist at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, and Laura Dilley, a linguist at Michigan State University, hopes to discover optimal linguistic methods that parents can use to better communicate with their infant with hearing loss. 

“Speech-language therapy is more of an art than a science, and there’s a great need for evidence-based strategies on how to talk to your children,” Houston said.

Beginning in January, Ohio State’s research team will collect data on speech that infants with normal hearing and those with hearing loss are exposed to, as well as language outcomes of each group.

For more information or to enroll in the study, call 614-685-6447.


Media Contact: Sherri Kirk, Wexner Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations, 614-293-3737 or